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Denver, CO - Denver Zoo is thrilled to welcome the first Steller’s sea eagle chick to be successfully reared at the Zoo. The unnamed chick, whose gender is still not known, hatched on March 4. The chick is currently nesting with and being brooded by its mother in Bird World, presented by Frontier Airlines. Look for the chick high in its nest, where guests can catch glimpses of the bird as he grows or check out closed circuit video clips on the Zoo’s website.
The chick’s birth is a somewhat rare occasion in the United States. Not many zoos exhibit or breed these remarkable raptors, but Denver Zoo maintains enough space to keep them comfortable. They also require an overall colder climate as their species is native to the western, coastal area of northern Russia.
This is the first chick for both mother, Ursula, and father, Vlad. Ursula hatched at the Cincinnati Zoo in April 2005 and came to Denver Zoo in February 2006. Vlad hatched in April 2007 at the Birdpark Avifauna, in Alphen aan den Rijn, in the Netherlands and arrived at Denver Zoo in November 2008. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Steller’s sea eagles are the largest known eagles with average weights recorded between 15 and 18 pounds. They have large, bright yellow beaks; while their plumage is mostly dark brown or black, save for the white feathers on their upper wings, tails and thighs. Little is known about the species as their primary habitats in East Asia are fairly remote. The birds were named after German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who discovered the species during an Alaskan voyage in 1741.
With a wild population estimated between 4,600 and 5,000 individuals, Steller’s sea eagles are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers continue to decrease due to habitat alteration and destruction, pollution, logging and over-fishing, which decreases their food source.